“Just him being there, him at 30 per cent, we want him on the field.”
That statement from Roosters captain Boyd Cordner underlines the importance of a far-from-fit Cooper Cronk to this Roosters team.
It was remarkable enough that Cronk was able to take to the field at all for the side that lured him north to help claim their first premiership since 2013.
A one-armed Cronk showed there is no weight too heavy after inspiring the Sydney Roosters to a 21-6 grand final win over Melbourne.
The former Storm halfback defied what was later revealed to be a broken shoulder blade to justify the Roosters’ decision to lure Cronk to their club.
“It will go down in history, that’s for sure,” Cordner said.
Cronk was limited to the role of traffic controller, registering just 18 touches of the ball during the game, but still left the 82,668 crowd in wonderment over his defensive nous.
He somehow failed to miss nine of his attempted tackles in a courageous effort that had Roosters coach Trent Robinson hailing his veteran post-game.
Asked if he had seen a braver performance, Robinson declared: “Never.
“I’ve seen guys get injured in games, but I haven’t seen a guy fracture his scapula — a complete break through the scapula, then play 60 minutes with it, and then have to deal with it all week, have four different lots of injections during the week.”
Robinson said he’d never seen a player mentally stronger than Cronk.
“It’s legend status in our game, that. And it’s not an understatement,” he said.
“And we got to witness it. Honestly, I was observing every day and to watch a man go through that was awesome.”
“It’s hard to explain in words.
“Lots of people delivered a premiership for us, but what he did this week and last week was incredible.”
Robinson revealed the club intentionally chose not to disclose the exact nature of his fractured scapula, instead opting to say he had a severe rotator cuff injury.
The entire playing group knew of the issue the Sunday after their preliminary final.
“We were really honest: not with you guys [the media], but the players,” he said.
“We knew that the rotator cuff was good for us to have.
“If we said it was a fractured scapula, it was pretty obvious that he either wasn’t going to play and it wasn’t gradings, whereas the rotator cuff was a certain range.
“So we said, ‘we’re going to say it’s a rotator cuff so people don’t know, but this is exactly what’s happened to Cooper and this is what it’s going to take’.”
Robinson had prepared for Cronk not to play, however the 34-year-old didn’t declare he was ready until Friday night.
While he failed to participate in the captain’s run on Saturday, the Roosters knew their key playmaker was going to run out the following day.
And the news appeared to have spurred the Roosters into a three-try first-half blitz on Sunday that stunned an uncharacteristically error-riddled Storm side.
NRL tweet: All class from Cooper Cronk
Cronk acted as a backstage puppet, pointing players to different attacking spots while expertly hiding himself in defence on both sides of the field all night.
Not long after Keary sealed the premiership with a 69th-minute field goal, an exhausted Cronk expired to the bench to a raucous applause.
He later credited his pain tolerance to the club’s decision to go all-in on bringing him over, even at the controversial expense of favourite son Mitchell Pearce.
“I think the whole idea is that you work so hard, and these boys worked extremely hard from the outset.
“Everyone at this football club has sacrificed something for me to be here. It was just my duty to do everything I could possibly do to repay that faith.
“From the top down, everyone in this organisation sacrificed something for me to be here, and I dont take that responsibility lightly and that was the motivation to get out there and get my job done tonight.”